Austin Ringelstein: “On the Trail of Alice Ballard”: Stories and Archaeological finds from an African American Woman’s Homestead on the Margins of the Los Angeles Wilderness

Join SCAS for a talk by Austin Ringelstein entitled: “On the Trail of Alice Ballard”:  Stories and Archaeological finds from an African American Woman’s Homestead on the Margins of the Los Angeles Wilderness.

The talk will be held on January 9, 2020, at 7:30 pm at the Santa Cruz Live Oak Grange Hall at 1900 17th Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062 (click here for Google Maps directions).

In November 2018, the Woolsey fire burned over 90,000 acres and 88% of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The Woolsey Fire had devastating impacts on the area’s cultural resources, but it also created an opportunity to search for the archaeological remains of an African American woman’s homestead in the rugged wilderness outside of Los Angeles.

Alice Ballard was a young woman who established her own 160-acre homestead and log house in 1900, when it was unusual for women of color to do so. The search for her cabin site began years ago, but it was not until after the Woolsey Fire that the ground surface became visible. Some artifacts observed on her former homestead roughly date to her period of occupation on the land, which has led to investigations by students from California State University, Northridge. The archaeology and the stories about the people who have had stake in this land reveal a powerful narrative about the importance place and the potential to weave the past with the present, and future.

Austin Ringelstein has called California home for about the last ten years. After serving in the United States Navy, he attended archaeological field schools in San Marcos and Pimu (Santa Catalina) Island. He enrolled at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and conducted his thesis research on a legacy collection of Tongva cultural materials from Pimu. He completed his MA in Anthropology (archaeology focus) in 2016 and another MA in Education in 2019 from UC Santa Cruz.

Austin worked for the National Park Service (NPS) for three years as an archaeological technician, studied ancient roads in Micronesia, and conducts ongoing work on an African American civil rights/archaeological project with the NPS, CSUN, and the Los Angeles community. A pivotal moment for him was joining other military veterans at the Oceti Sakowin Camp to support the Native American community and other water protectors in Standing Rock, North Dakota, in 2016.

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